ha! political upset sweeps malvern borough (but t.o.d still on the table)

malvern 2

I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the residents of Malvern Borough for taking the first steps to take back their town from developers and council people who have forgotten why they serve in the first place.

***And before I get into more, let me remind Borough Residents that somewhat hidden on the Malvern Borough website is the flyer for the next Transit Oriented Development or TOD meeting (ToDflyer11-19-13 ).*** 

Anyway…while some will coo over political party nonsense of it all, that wasn’t what the write in was about.  It was about standing up for where you live and pay taxes and giving yourselves permission to say “NO”. This is democracy at its best.

Congratulations to David Bramwell, Todd Lexer and Matt Radano.  They are new councilmen-elect.  They crushed their competition on a write-in campaign that the existing regime obviously did not take seriously.  And of course next election you can replace the rest of them too. My top pick for replacement next would be Mr. Woody VanSciver.  The write-in three will have a real job ahead of them and I thank them in advance for taking on a largely thankless job.

Congratulations to the new mayor-elect David Burton.  He won by a huge margin for a small town.  He is a Democrat, but that is not what got him elected.  What got him elected was the desire for change.

And that is what is so truly cool about this latest Malvern political tale.  Much like when Betty Burke rallied the troops in the past, these people did it this time.  It remains to be seen how things progress, but Malvern Borough residents can help by going to public meetings and participating in their future. But much like  “back in the day”, this is a cautionary tale because Malvern Borough residents this journey is just starting.  As they say, you have won a major battle but not the war.

Winning the war means showing some developers the door and sending T.O.D. packing. I mean how can they even talk about T.O.D. now when no one knows what SEPTA is doing? SEPTA stopped service at Paoli before, and they can do it again.  And until that is all ironed out, why not just stop the emperor’s new clothes of it all?

I took a lot of flak as a borough outsider for expressing an opinion about Malvern Borough, but I think Malvern is a cool little town and I really hope it is preserved and not super-sized.

And I am really looking forward to my first Malvern Victorian Christmas as a Chester County resident this year – I have had conflicts on that Friday the past few years.  Malvern Victorian Christmas is Friday December 6th from 6 – 9 PM, and Saturday December 7th from 10 AM – 3 PM.

I will also note again that Malvern Borough pulled a lazy-sneaky and did NOT add a NEW post for the upcoming Transit Oriented Development Meeting but they have it listed as Tuesday, November 19th, 6 PM at Borough Hall.  Borough residents should join their new Mayor-elect and councilmen-elect there.  An old political trick is always to try to shove things in or set them up to get in as one administration prepares to partially or totally turn over. (Why do you think Washington DC is such a perpetual mess?)

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Here is some recent media attention on Malvern Borough – note I am only posting excerpts. Please go to Main Line Media News to read both articles in their entirety:

Main Line Suburban Life: Henry Briggs: Nov. 5, 2013: The day Malvern rebelled

Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

By Henry Briggs
Columnist, The Scribbler

Democracy can be messy. It can be inspiring. It can be dividing or uniting.

Many people distrust their elected officials. It’s very American, in a way. But usually, the distrust is localized around, as the old saying goes, those whose ox is gored.  If politicians can keep ox owners separate, they get away with it. If not, well…

Over the last few years, a number of ox in the little town of Malvern were being gored, but at first, residents on focused only on their own…..On election day, with T-shirts proclaiming “Do the ‘WRITE-IN’ thing,” Dave Burton and the ‘write-in’ candidates worked the polls all day. On a normal non-presidential election,  about 320 Malvern voters show up. For this election, 799 showed up.

Dave Burton, Dave Bramwell, Todd Lexer, and Matt Radano won by a landslide.

Democracy can be messy. It can be inspiring. It can be dividing or uniting. Or it can be all of the above

Meet Malvern’s new councilmen, mayor

Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

By Linda Stein
lstein@mainlinemedianews.com

In an example of democracy in action the voters in Malvern turned out in record numbers in the Nov. 5 to sweep out the incumbent mayor and three councilmen.

The pace and character of development in the borough was evidently the issue that brought voters to the polls, resulting in the successful write-in candidacy of three residents for seats on the council.

David Burton, a Democrat who won the mayoral race 509 to 266 against long-time incumbent Gerald J. McGlone Jr., said development was the issue on people’s minds as he knocked on doors this fall…..A challenge to a large group of residents who opposed more development was issued at the July 16 meeting by council members, who told them to run for election if they did not believe that Malvern Council represented the will of the people. That brought a write-in campaign, said long-time resident Danny Fruchter.

David Bramwell, Todd Lexer and Matt Radano, who took 68 percent of the vote, according to unofficial totals from Chester County. Incumbents William Macaleer, Robert Coughlin and Zeyn Uzman received about 10 percent each…“They were all swept out of office in a landslide,” said Fruchter, who said that officials who had gotten cozy with developers and were ignoring the borough’s comprehensive plan.

do you live in zip code 19355? read this.

malvern

Ahh yes, another post about Malvern Borough. I could post more photos of the tiny small town that it is, but I will stick with a photo of the town mural and a couple of photos containing well worded graffiti on overpasses from elsewhere in Chester County.

Malvern Borough is a small town.  It is surrounded, by rural, industrial, commercial and residential in the genre of exubrbia. Malvern is not and never will be the Main Line.  Malvern shouldn’t want to be the Main Line, either.  If Malvern wants to be like anyone, how about St. Peter’s Village or Narberth? Those are cute places who aren’t afraid to be the little home towns that they are.

danger photo

Malvern historically has always had an identity crisis. Settled originally by Welsh immigrants in the 17th century, it was the site of the Paoli Massacre in 1777, it was a tiny little area that never had a name until 1873 and wasn’t even incorporated as a borough until 1889. It has always been small with King as the main road off the beaten path.

Malvern should be fine with who it is, but it seems part of the history of Malvern is a history of government issues.  You might say it is one of Malvern’s long-standing traditions.

Malvern said yes to a relationship with Eli Kahn and gave birth to the yet unoccupied behemoth of a mixed use building.  You know, because Malvern needs to be so urban.  That building is perched unattractively right on the road with no care or thought to human scale let alone a design compatible to the SMALL TOWN surroundings.  You can’t unring the bell on that project.

But Malvern and people around Malvern need to wake up to what is coming down the pike if they are not careful. T.O.D. or transit oriented development.  Clever speak for cram those units in developers!

I have written about T.O.D. twice in 2013:

the emperor may have no clothes on when it comes to t.o.d. in Malvern

if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

T.O.D. is no joke and at the most simplest of explanations won’t fit in Malvern Borough.  We’re talking at least 600 residential units. I used to say that T.O.D. stood for Total Of Dumbasses. I still do.  If Malvern Borough, as in the Mayor and Borough council are not stopped, it is not just the residents of the borough who will be impacted.  Any other municipality that has borders will be impacted.  I think East Whiteland will be impacted the most.  And her residents will have no choice in the matter as this is Malvern Borough’s proposed stupidity.

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What has provoked me to write again about this?  Henry Brigg’s brilliant and ever so sad column in Main Line Media news today.  It should be required reading it is that good.

He mentions a lady named Betty Burke who staged an uprising via a sit in on Christmas Eve in the 1970s to get rid of a corrupt local government.  Well that fascinated me so I did a little research.  Betty Burke died in 2011.  I just read two things about her and it brought tears to my eyes. Now there was a woman I would have liked to have known.

Here, refresh your memories:

betty burkeRemembering Betty Burke By Henry Briggs

Published: Wednesday, March 09, 2011

M. Elizabeth Burke, 91, a Malvern activist

By Sally A. Downey, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: March 17, 2011

Burke Park is named for Betty and her husband Sam. A lot of what has made Malvern a cool place in the past 3 or 4 decades is because of this woman’s persistence.

So are there enough people who knew Betty and her husband Sam still around that they might stop and think about what is lurking for Malvern “is this what Betty would have wanted?” Or would Betty have told people to toss the elected officials out again?

Again, I never knew Betty. But wow, what I have read about her is amazing so I think she would be very sad for Malvern right now if she was alive.

Of course it is not too late if people wake up now.  And don’t depend on local media to keep you abreast of things. Residents are going to have to do it the old-fashioned/old school way: pay attention and go to meetings. Use your power of the vote and change the faces of who govern you.

Stop the craziness in Malvern.  Read Henry Briggs column:

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

Henry Briggs: Say goodbye to Malvern, RFD

Published: Wednesday, October 02, 2013

This is a story about a storybook small town, one that could exist anywhere in the country, one that is being left open to attack by the very people who should be defending it.

It is 1.3 square miles with tree-lined streets…..lying between bucolic expanses of gentleman horse farms in Willistown and the corporate parks and exurban sprawl of East Whiteland.

Originally, when the whole area was working farm land, Malvern was a commercial hub, a place to buy supplies and sell the fruit of their labors…….Malvern has one traffic light, three little league fields, five churches, and, until a couple of years ago, one bar. The administrative office and police department are in the repurposed school house…..Traditionally, residents of small towns are quick to defend them.

When the town council turned corrupt in the early ’70s, Betty Burke, a nurse, mother, and political novice, led a bunch of other mothers in a Christmas Eve sit-in and coup that threw the bums out. Frank Capra would have loved it.

Traditionally, residents of small towns understand and cherish their unique qualities…..Malvern is at the bottom of a hefty political pyramid.

In recent years, special interests from that pyramid – with cooperation from leaders of the Malvern Council – decided that Malvern is just too small for the 21st century. They have been joined by developers who, like hawks in a summer sky, spot vulnerabilities that those on the ground never suspect.

Henry Briggs has written many a column that was like a love letter to Malvern.  This is one of those letters. Except it is so achingly sad because it is like he is saying good-bye to an old, dear friend.

Malvern Borough residents old and new, will you save your town? Please?

Post Script: Thanks to local columnist and former Malvern Borough Council President Henry Briggs, I have two more columns about Betty and Sam Burke to share…in the hopes that remembering these simple people who worked so hard will inspire Malvern residents to shake off the cobwebs and save their small town before it becomes another Eagle or some plastic coated Toll Brothers-esque mess wrapped in Tyvec.

The Scribbler Proud member of the Betty Burke Party

The Scribbler My Best To You

the emperor may have no clothes on when it comes to t.o.d. in malvern

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UPDATE: I was just cruising through Malvern Patch to see if there was any resident feedback from Malvern’s TOD meeting (since the media can’t seem to cover life altering development) and my eyes about popped when I read this:

Sidne Baglini      July 24, 2013 at 09:34 pm   

The meeting was last night at Borough Hall.  The subject was the Transportation Oriented Development…Read More Plan presentation which is encouraging the Borough to change the zoning on the north side of the railroad tracks on Warren Ave.  so that 600 residential units can be constructed so that SEPTA can increase it’s ridership and surrounding communities can avoid suburban sprawl.  The plans presented showed several 12 story buildings; a plan with multiple 7 story buildings and a plan with even more multiple 4 or 5 story buildings.  Another meeting will be announced for late summer or early autumn as they are required to hold 3 public meetings and last night’s was the 2nd.  I don’t know if the 3 plans were left at the Borough Hall or if they are being held by the Delaware Valley Planning Commission.  In a nutshell, if you think East King Street Flats is your vision of what Malvern should be like, then this proposal is EKSF on steroids.

EARLIER:

I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses.  It really means Transit Oriented Development, and whoa Nellie I had no idea it was being planned for Malvern Borough.

It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

And oh my gosh golly here comes a meeting that may have been held TODAY in Malvern Borough that I only saw on Malvern Patch just now and it wasn’t posted until July 22 at almost 11 pm.  This is a meeting important enough that it should have had widely publicized notices for weeks and not been held in the dead of a hot, hot summer when a lot of people are away.  But the jaded person in me says that naturally that is when local governments sneak things through: around major holidays or in the dead of summer.

Future of Train Station up for Discussion

This is your second chance to see what could be coming for the Malvern train station.

 A meeting this Tuesday could shape how a major section of Malvern could look in the future.

The Malvern Transit-Oriented Development Plan (TOD) is holding a public meeting to discuss the future of the half-mile section of borough near the SEPTA train station on Tuesday, from 4 to 7 p.m….For more information on the meeting, contact borough manager Sandra Kelley at 610-644-2602 or check out the group’s flyer onthe borough website.

Malvern-workshop-2-flyer

malvern flyer july 2013

A meeting this important and they seem incapable of properly publicizing? it is a shame that Malvern Borough wants to turn themselves into Upper Darby or something isn’t it?  I have to ask is this “plan” actually a done deal and are these motions are just for show?

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

Some will find my words hard and hyper critical and for that I am sorry, but lordy have they learned nothing? Look at Eli Kahn’s hulking monstrosity would you? The photo below was taken in March and while the Tyvec and black paper may be covered up now by plaster and whatnot but it still does not disguise the fact that this project looms over the street, looms over houses across the train tracks and lacks human scale and the ridiculously low amount once quoted in the paper as what would be gained in ratables leaves me scratching my head.

And again, I am sorry to sound this way it is just so simply Groundhog Day and if I could spare anyone what others have gone through with these Emperor’s New Clothes fools’ errands of unattainable zoning overlays and infill development hair-brained plans that don’t EVER seem to take into account the scale of current buildings, architecture, history, human scale, design elements, the actual will of the people or parking and traffic I would.

I don’t live in Malvern Borough so I have no standing, just opinion.  But I have to say I am not anti-progress but I am against poor planning.  An article from September 2012 in Main Line Media News by Henry Briggs on this topic says that as per tax records Malvern Borough residents pay nearly FOUR TIMES the taxes paid by businesses and industrial property owners.

Here is that column of Henry Briggs’ from September 2012:

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

HENRY BRIGGS: How much should Malvern grow?

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

On Tuesday, Sept 25, from 4pm to 7pm, Malvern Borough will offer its citizens a voice in a decision that will permanently effect the future of the town.

Woody Van Sciver, Borough Council President and Jeff Riegner a planning consultant, will ask for comments on “transit oriented development” in Malvern; specifically, putting additional people and buildings into a half-mile perimeter of the Malvern SEPTA station.

As Malvern is only 1.3 square miles, this will have enormous and permanent impact on the people who live and work there.

With the development of East King Street, the town is currently in the first stage of a 10% expansion….What triggered the study? A breakfast in 2008 hosted by the Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce and attended by assorted civic leaders, including Woody Van Sciver, Malvern Borough Council President.

The main speaker, Barry Seymour, from the DVRPC, spoke about the need to beef up density around transit centers – the SEPTA and AMTRAK stations – along the Main Line. His pitch echoed that of the “Landscapes Plan” which Chester County put together years ago.

I am with Henry Briggs and ex-Borough President Pat McGuigan: keep Malvern a traditional village.  Maybe spruce it up a little and get some of those derelict property owners near the Flying Pig to clean up and get tenants, but don’t supersize Malvern around a train station that isn’t even handicap accessible.  Fix up the existing downtown, get grants to repair sidewalks.  Look to ways of improving parking for visitors and residents. Come up with a viable village plan that looks at Malvern Borough as a whole so progress flows and doesn’t cause pain. Go to Media and Narberth and check them out – although downtown Media is much larger than either Narberth or Malvern like Malvern and Narberth it is off the beaten path (i.e. not right on a major road like Route 30)

Like many municipalities, Malvern Borough might benefit in term limits for elected officials because wow hearing this stuff makes one question why people serve doesn’t it? Maybe this Woody Van Sciver needs to retire, right?

Also see Should Malvern Grow by Joseph DiStefano at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malvern Borough is 1.2 or 1.3 square miles and that will never change.  It is time for Malvrn Borough Towns Fathers to put away their huge insecurity issues and obvious inferiority complexes and accept Malvern for what it is: a VILLAGE.  Capitalize on THAT, don’t try to make Malvern what it is not.  And anyone who tells you that your community in exurbia (because out here we are past the traditional suburbs of the Main Line) will only thrive and prosper with tons of density and infill development should be run out of town on a rail and sent to live in the urban jungle they so greatly crave.  As a matter of fact, I hear there is a lot of room in Detroit these days.

Lecture over You all do what you want this is merely my opinion.

another fairy tale for malvern? proceed with caution.

Sorry, jaded skeptic checking in.  I just saw an article about Malvern in Main Line Suburban Life  and “train station redevelopment”.

And yes the loyal friend TOD (transit oriented development.) TOD is not a one-sized fits all band-aid  in ALL areas.

OMG already have the t-shirt on what THIS does to an old-fashioned  main street oriented community.

Malvern Borough residents be watchful and not too gullible.  Once upon a time they told this tale in Lower Merion Township for Ardmore, PA.  Flash forward  about ten years and what do they have? Nothing.

No train station (although Jim Gerlach gave them $6 million towards it)

Ardmore DOES have a confounding zoning overlay that cost a pretty penny but really has not gone anywhere called must (Mixed Use Special Transit often nicknamed More Unfair Special Treatment.)

Ardmore has a redevelopment plan of mythic proportions and a developer to build…only years later the developer’s contract keeps getting extended, this all costs loads of taxpayer monies (although there has never been a very specific accounting), and there is nothing to show for it.  Many file this project which grew out of the defeat of eminent domain for private gain as a failure, government waste and boondoggle.

Malvern has already bit off a rather large project on East King (I have written about Malvern development before including HERE). This is not an economy for full steam ahead, it is proceed with caution.  In this economy you do not necessarily make money to spend money. You need to be careful and realistic.  Saying residents of rural areas and exurbs will suddenly forgo their cars and SUVs to take public transit  out here is inconvenient at best is just silly. Are all people going to take the train or walk to the farmers market being discussed for 2013 in Malvern?

So my thoughts (in part having lived through this garbage where I used to live) is not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but to go SLOWLY.  Finish one project at a time.

New Urbanism Utopia for Malvern is a little too much of a fairy tale for me. And Malvern had better figure out if it can handle the density when the East King Street project is complete versus just layering more on.

Let us be real: Malvern in a small community not too far away from what could be considered rural.  People need their vehicles.  I do not see Paoli local stops on roads like Swedesford and 401 and Pottstown Pike or Phoenixville Pike.

You will never see the  communities out here  turn into ones that don’t use their cars and the trade-off near the already congested town center of Malvern Borough for increased density is not worth it in my humble opinion.  You keep adding people, they aren’t going to live out here without a vehicle.  Where will everyone park?  I don’t see that the redevelopment in progress addresses the need for parking sufficiently.

And learn the lesson of insufficient ratables from the East King project.

Residents of Malvern Borough, now is the time to pay attention.  For some reason your community seems to be easy pickings for new development. I am not saying progress is bad, but you need to remember what kind of town you are and that is not Wayne and not West Chester.  Malvern is small, like Narberth.  Look to a community like Narberth.  Or even Ambler.  Embrace the small town of it all. Don’t let people talk you into what you never successfully will be.

Here is the article:

Train station redevelopment project pitched to Malvern residents

Published: Monday, October 01, 2012

BY Brent Glasgow
bglasgow@journalregister.com

MALVERN – Residents had a chance to provide input on the borough’s future on Tuesday, at an informational workshop on a transit-oriented development plan that could eventually alter the landscape of the community.

Sponsored by Malvern Borough with support from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the workshop introduced the concept of redeveloping the area within a half-mile radius of the Malvern train station.

Presenter Jeff Riegner, from the design firm of Whitman, Requardt and Associates, defined transit-oriented development as “compact, mixed-use, walk-friendly development around a train station.”

The project could include retail, residential and office development.

Allowing residents to leave their cars at home is a priority in TOD plans. Riegner said doing so leads to fewer roadway expansion projects, while giving commuters more options and raising air quality and home values.

“It really is a small-town idea and fits really well in a community like Malvern,” Riegner said.

There is no TOD plan currently in place for Malvern.